STEM & Citizen Science


Citizen science in mathematics is by no means a new approach.  Mathematicians have been utilizing the publics assistance to further the research in the field for the past century.  In 1938, the Works Project Administration, established a computing organization that employed 450 office workers to conduct mass scientific computations. The computations were conducted by citizens who had minimal experience in mathematics. The research design team created a computational method derived from simple arithmetic due to the limited mathematical understanding of the workers.  This aspect of the project involves the theory of citizen science as it took a large number of non-professionals to conduct a large portion of their research. Since then, mathematicians have utilized the influence of citizen science to further the scientific process as well as raise awareness of mathematics in the general public.

Adopt a Polyhedron

Anna M. Hartkopf designed the citizen art project, Adopt a Polyhedron, as a method to engage the public in an eye-level dialogue about mathematics.  This eye-level dialogue creates an active participation that is self-motivated and moves away from the idea that the public is simply a receiver of information.  This is in parallel to the concepts of citizen science which invites the public to actively join the research process by playing an active part in the data collection, awareness of the field, and literacy in the field.  The Adopt a Polyhedron citizen art project, incorporated these elements and added an artistic and creative element. 

The Adopt a Polyhdedron project illuminates the multiplicity and wealth of variety of polyhedral for the public.  On their website all 2907 combinatorial types of polyhedral with up to nine vertices were on display.  The user would choose a polyhedron and by giving it a name, adopt it.  For each polyhedron a crafting sheet to build the model could be downloaded. Hartkopf encouraged the users to make another creative and individual model of their object.  Pictures of the models would be uploaded and pieced by piece a collective gallery of all 2907 polyhedra emerged.

The goal of Adopt A Polyhedron was to raise the public awareness of mathematics and geometry.  By having participants adopt a polyhedron, name it, and build a creative model, participants would relate to a mathematical object on an individual level as they add a personal and artistic element.  This approach emphasized the one-on-one relationship between a mathematical object and the participant.  Hartkopf describes the focus on a single object does not overwhelm participants with the complexities of mathematics and can add a personal touch and contribute to science. By placing the creative and relational aspects first, Hartkopf hoped to foster an internal motivation to learn more about the object.  A detailed glossary on polyhedra and related mathematical concepts were placed on a website where a curious participant can quench their thirst for knowledge.


Hartkopf, Anna. "Citizen Art- Collective Mathematical Art To Raise the Public Awareness of Mathematics." Bridges 2019 Conference Proceedings. 

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